Before I start to write anything about choice in recovery I really can’t emphasise enough that I do not support the outdated notion that EDs are a choice. I first developed an ED as a child before I had even heard of the terms anorexia, bulimia, EDNOS etc. There was no internet, no social media (think makes me sound ancient!) but there was very definitely an intrusive voice that told me that losing weight needed to be my life’s priority – this was not a choice and I refuse to blame my 9 year old self for listening to that voice- it wasn’t a ‘choice’.
However, where I’m at now with my ED, the word ‘choice’ means something different. I recently had a good ol’ moan about my wobbly body and a lovely reader made the sensible comment that I could do more exercise and eat more to adjust for this if I wanted to. They’re right- this is one option, and I love to get practical suggestions for when I’m a bit stuck.
However, when I read this comment I thought to myself ‘when would I fit in more exercise? Something else (sleep, hanging out with boyf, study) would have to go’ ‘How would I possibly manage to eat even more food?’ ‘My nurse wouldn’t approve of that’ If I did that I’d be tired for run club sessions’ and various other thoughts. This made me realise that my rational-wants recovery-knows it’s worth it-voice is alive and well, and with that came the realisation that things have shifted, I have made a huge leap in progress and that actually maybe I am going to BE OK.
The other thing I realised was that I was in a position to make a choice about my reaction to the wobble. One of these choices is as above: adding in some exercise and eating more to compensate. Another is trusting the process that my brain will catch up with my new body. And then of course there is the option that I cut back on calories and increase exercise.
Being able to see these various choices and reflect on them is a massive step in my recovery too. When I was trapped ‘down there’ with my ED I could never see alternatives. I could only ever see the route that kept me tired, cold, miserable and ill. I didn’t choose the destructive path because I didn’t understand that a different one existed. I couldn’t see anything else so it never felt like a choice, it was just the way things were and the way things felt like they would always be.
It took desperation for me to seek help. I don’t think I knew at the time that I was looking for another path, I just knew I couldn’t stay where I was. It took nutrition to start laying the paving stones for my alternative route. It took painful conversations, many tears, terrifying leaps of faith (and probably my medication if I’m honest!) for to be in the space that I could even begin to ‘choose’ to make better decisions.
My world is far brighter and has far more paths in it that the dark ED world I used to live in. I may not always make the right choices, but for now I am thankful that I am in the position and I have the freedom to choose.